Ecclesiastical Colony: China’s Catholic Church and the French Religious Protectorate

[Cross-posted from New Books in Christian Studies] In theory, Christian missionaries plan only on working in a country until an indigenous leadership can take over management of the church. Theory is one thing, but practice is quite another, as Dr. Ernest P. Young shows in his fascinating exploration of this issue in his Ecclesiastical Colony: China’s Catholic Church and the French Religious Protectorate (Oxford University Press, 2013). In this well-researched work, Dr. Young shows why many Catholics missionaries, including those who were not French, were willing to look to French protection in China, and how that impeded the growth of an indigenous, acculturated church. Dr. Young also tells the fascinating story of how a few missionaries, sympathetic to Chinese aspirations and wishing to build a truly Chinese Catholic Church, worked with the Vatican in an attempt to undermine the French Protectorate. As readers of this fine book will find, the merely partial success of this project has echoes that still reverberate in China today.